Palmerston North kidnapping: Arrest made

By Catherine Gaffaney, Anna Leask

Shamrock Street, Palmerston North, near where the young girl was grabbed by a man driven away. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Shamrock Street, Palmerston North, near where the young girl was grabbed by a man driven away. Photo / Mark Mitchell

A man has been arrested and charged in relation to the abduction of a young girl in Palmerston North last week.

The man appeared in the Rotorua District Court today and has been remanded in custody to appear in Palmerston North District Court next month.

Inspector Sarah Stewart said she hoped the development would provide reassurance to the community.

She wanted to thank the community for their support and assistance throughout the investigation.

A number of suppression orders were made preventing media from publishing any further details about the man.

The principal of the school the girl attended said the news of an arrest was "a relief".

"As can be expected, we're relieved. We're relieved for the girl's whanau."

Palmerston North mayor Grant Smith said the arrest was a "real relief".

"There's obvious relief that an arrest has been made... Relief not only for the family but also for the community of Palmerston North."

Mr Smith said there had been "understandable angst" in the community following the abduction.

"As you can expect, people, especially those with young kids, were quite worried.

"Something like this is very rare for any community in New Zealand.

"While people's worries were understandable, it was an isolated incident.

"Parents need to look out for the children, as always, but hopefully they'll begin to feel safe allowing their children to walk to school again."

Police launched a massive manhunt for the alleged offender after the girl, who cannot be named for legal reason, was taken from Shamrock Street last Friday.

The young girl was taken as she walked school with her two sisters about 8.30am on Friday.

About two hours later she was dumped outside a house on Hind Place.

Officers investigating the abduction yesterday appealed for sightings of a late model white Nissan Maxima.

They described the incident as "every family's worst nightmare".

WHY THE ARREST WAS KEPT SECRET

The man was arrested last night and appeared in the Palmerston North District Court today. Only then was the arrest made public by police.

Usually in high profile cases police announce an arrest straight away.

However in this case the information was kept from the media and police say this was solely to protect the victim.

When she first went missing her name and photograph were widely published by police and the media. After she was found and police were hunting the accused they asked media to stop using her name and photograph.

The Herald complied with this request.

The little girl was a victim and as such, could not be identified.

Police National Headquarters spokesman Grant Ogilvie explained why police kept the court appearance under wraps.

"This decision was taken to protect the victim... some media continued to run her identity and picture long after she was located last Friday,' Mr Ogilvie said.

"We know that we would normally give some notification (to media) prior to any court appearance, however in this instance we have had to take a different approach in order to protect a vulnerable young victim. Her best interests outweighed any other considerations."

Commissioner Mike Bush also weighed in on the arrest.

"The arrest of a person in relation to the taking of a five-year-old girl in Palmerston North last Friday will give reassurance to the community," he wrote in his weekly blog.

"Whilst incidents of this nature understandably cause great concern, they are very rare. It is important that kids have information about how they can keep themselves safe, and I encourage all parents to talk to their children about how to recognise inappropriate behaviour and what to do when it occurs."

- NZ Herald

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